Background: A consensus prognostic gene expression classifier is still elusive in heterogeneous diseases such as breast cancer.
Results: Here we perform a combined analysis of three major breast cancer microarray data sets to hone in on a universally valid prognostic molecular classifier in estrogen receptor (ER) positive tumors. Using a recently developed robust measure of prognostic separation, we further validate the prognostic classifier in three external independent cohorts, confirming the validity of our molecular classifier in a total of 877 ER positive samples. Furthermore, we find that molecular classifiers may not outperform classical prognostic indices but that they can be used in hybrid molecular-pathological classification schemes to improve prognostic separation.
Conclusion: The prognostic molecular classifier presented here is the first to be valid in over 877 ER positive breast cancer samples and across three different microarray platforms. Larger multi-institutional studies will be needed to fully determine the added prognostic value of molecular classifiers when combined with standard prognostic factors.